Vukuzazi

Vukuzazi is an innovative new Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) programme which brings cutting-edge health screening and scientific research to an area with one of the highest HIV and tuberculosis prevalence rates in South Africa.

‘Vuk’uzazi’ (isiZulu) refers to ‘knowing ourselves’. Through Vukuzazi, AHRI hopes to get a better understanding of the ways in which the non-communicable and infectious disease epidemics are intersecting.

Vukuzazi will enable AHRI to develop a completely novel and integrated set of data and biosamples which scientists will use to gain insight into fundamental interactions between HIV, tuberculosis (TB), environmental exposures and non-communicable diseases.

How it works

AHRI aims to reach 30 000 participants over the course of 18 months. People living in the Institute’s health and demographic surveillance system site in uMkhanyakude District, KwaZulu-Natal, are being invited to participate in a comprehensive health screening at a Vukuzazi mobile camp. The mobile camp will come within one kilometre of each participant’s home, making access easy. At the camp participants will be screened for diabetes, high blood pressure, nutritional status (obesity and malnutrition), tobacco and alcohol use as well as HIV and tuberculosis. AHRI nurses will also collect a range of biological samples, which will be used for a wider programme of genetic and microbiome research. The clinical information will be layered on to AHRI’s rich longitudinal population and clinical data from the Institute’s past 15 years of research in the area. Through a sophisticated data system, which starts in the field at the Vukuzazi camp, AHRI’s clinical team will examine this information in real time, link it together and make referrals into the public health system for people as needed. This relies on AHRI’s long-standing and close partnership with the Department of Health.

One of the key aspects of Vukuzazi that will push this research agenda forward is understanding the genetic makeup of our population, but in particular what is it about those genetics which determines who is protected from disease, and who gets disease. There is a paucity of data from Africa, sub-Saharan Africa in particular, and we want to redress that balance. We want to ensure that the potential benefits that are being shown to populations in the West can also be provided to the population here.”

– AHRI Director & Vukuzazi co-PI, Professor Deenan Pillay.

Tuberculosis

TB is the leading cause of death in uMkhanyakude. At the Vukuzazi camp, participants will be offered TB screening with a chest X-ray. Those who report TB symptoms or have an abnormal X-ray will also have a sputum sample examined for evidence of TB. Capturing high-quality digital chest X-rays and using AHRI’s laboratories to analyse the circulating strains of TB will enhance scientists’ levels of understanding of TB transmission in the community.

AHRI welcomes collaboration interest from scientists outside of the Institute. Please register your interest via science@ahri.org